Greased laughingstock who said the word "nigger" once in the '80s Paula Deen, appeared on this morning's Today show to discuss her return to cookin' programmin'. Throughout her 10-minute chat with Matt Lauer, Deen's faced crapped out smiles with the desperation of a child beauty pageant contestant whose go-go juice had not yet kicked in. Smilin' looked hard, y'all.
The interview was hilarious before it even began as Deen attempted to silently telegraph her warmth and approachability when they threw to her waiting on the Today couch (alongside her sons Jamie and Bobby Deen) to preview her upcoming segment.
And then when it was time for her segment, she waved and blew a kiss to one of the judges who was sitting off camera. (The judges love when you connect.)
"HELLO EVERYBODY OUT THERE!" said Paula Deen to everybody out there and in here. Matt Lauer noted her discomfort during the intro package, in which her racism scandal was recounted and their hilariously disastrous interview from last year was excerpted. "I didn't recognize that woman. That was a woman in trauma. In, I would say, shock. Trying to understand what happened," said Deen, who, just in case you weren't aware, is still a victim. What's funny is that the woman Deen doesn't recognize is the one who flatly denied that she was racist as Lauer probed ("By birth? By choice? By osmosis?"). It was probably the sanest part of that interview.
What else? Well, the outcry against Deen's racism took her a while to understand: "I was confused as to the length of time since those words had been part of a language. You know, I had a hard time understanding 'cause it had been 30 years."
But then, she got off the merry-go-round: "I had to go home, sit on my sofa, and get off the merry-go-round. I had to remove myself and sit quietly so that I could think and see things from all angles."
Deen found her strength in the We support Paula Deen Facebook page, which she refers to as a website, as most moms of a certain age would. Did she read the less supportive comments? "No. I never intentionally went there, but I did come up on some by some on accident. But I also noticed those people have no names..." Shade to burners.
Lauer, who lobbed soft pitches at her for the entire 10 minutes, set her up to discuss her new "digital venture," PDN, or the Paula Deen Network. It's a website that will feature her old Food Network shows and many new ones. Deen has been "workin' lahk crazy" to get this thing off the ground. Lauer asked her what lessons she learned as a result of being exposed as a racist and she said they're so numerous that it's going to "require" another book. And then she said that there's going to be a documentary on PDN about her scandal (from her side). Lauer finally told her to say a lesson—any lesson at all!—beyond, you know, capitalize, and she said:
The power of words. I don't care how old they are. Words are so powerful. They can hurt. They can make people happy. Well, my words hurt people. They disappointed people. And frankly, I disappointed myself. And for that, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry for the hurt that I caused people. Because it went deep. It went deep. People lost their jobs. It went deep into corporate America. I'm here to make people happy not to bring sadness.
She reiterated that this is the new Paula Deen. As for the old Paula Deen, " I don't know that woman, and when I see things like that, I'll run from the room. I've been through several traumatic experiences like every woman out there in the home."
The home. (The asylum?)
Just before they cut to the next segment, as Lauer was saying goodbye to Deen and her family, her large, chunky necklace caught a studio light...
...and it was as though this woman had somehow harnessed the elements and forced them to beam right along with her. Be afraid.